Lawmakers introduce bill designating $28 billion to secure state and local IT systems

Lawmakers introduce bill designating $28 billion to secure state and local IT systems
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A coalition of lawmakers in the House and Senate on Thursday introduced legislation to funnel federal funds into strengthening state and local information technology systems, following increased stress on these systems during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The State and Local IT Modernization and Cybersecurity Act — sponsored in the House by Reps. Jim LangevinJames (Jim) R. LangevinGovernment watchdog recommends creation of White House cyber director position Pandemic underscores demand for career and technical education Rep. Jim Langevin fends off Democratic primary challenge in RI MORE (D-R.I.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherGovernment watchdog recommends creation of White House cyber director position Hillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations Lawmakers introduce bill designating billion to secure state and local IT systems MORE (R-Wis.) and in the Senate by Sen. Angus KingAngus KingHopes for DC, Puerto Rico statehood rise Government watchdog recommends creation of White House cyber director position Democrats step up hardball tactics as Supreme Court fight heats up MORE (I-Maine) — would provide $28 billion in federal aid to state and local governments to help shore up older systems in the midst of the pandemic. 

These funds would be funneled through a “Public Health Emergency Information Technology Grant Program” that would address immediate challenges to IT systems during the coronavirus pandemic, and a “Modernizing Information Technology Program” to purchase new and more secure platforms. 

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The bill was introduced after recommendations by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC), a bipartisan group established by Congress, that released a report in March detailing ways to secure the U.S. against debilitating cyberattacks. 

Langevin, a member of the CSC and the co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, said in a statement that the COVID-19 pandemic had made clear the negative impact of legacy IT systems on state and local governments. 

“We need immediate investments to ensure state and local employees can safely work remotely, and we need IT modernization strategies to ensure that essential services, like unemployment insurance, can be provided to Americans in need,” Langevin said. 

King and Gallagher, the co-chairs of the CSC, also cited the legislation as essential for state and local governments during the pandemic. 

“This legislation will help our states and localities update their systems, which will improve their security and provide the added benefit of helping state and local governments operate more efficiently in the digital age,” King said in a statement. “It’s necessary for our security, and it will strengthen online services for the American people – a win-win, and one I’m proud to introduce with Representatives Langevin and Gallagher.”

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"Outdated legacy systems not only threaten state and local governments' ability to deliver critical services, but can also expose sensitive data to cyber threats," Gallagher said in a separate statement. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and modernizing IT infrastructure is an important step towards ensuring our country is well-defended in cyberspace across all levels of government.”

Other House co-sponsors of the legislation include Rep. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondRep. Bill Pascrell named chair of House oversight panel Rep. Cedric Richmond set to join House Ways and Means Committee Biden campaign ratchets up courting of Black voters, specifically Black men MORE (D-La.), the chairman of the House Homeland Security’s cybersecurity subcommittee, and Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHillicon Valley: Oracle confirms deal with TikTok to be 'trusted technology provider' | QAnon spreads across globe, shadowing COVID-19 | VA hit by data breach impacting 46,000 veterans House approves bill to secure internet-connected federal devices against cyber threats House Democrats' campaign arm reserves .6M in ads in competitive districts MORE (R-Texas), Dutch RuppersbergerCharles (Dutch) Albert RuppersbergerHillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations Lawmakers introduce bill designating billion to secure state and local IT systems Lawmakers introduce legislation to establish national cybersecurity director MORE (D-Md.), Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulHouse passes legislation to crack down on business with companies that utilize China's forced labor House Republicans blame Chinese cover-up for coronavirus pandemic Engel subpoenas US global media chief Michael Pack MORE (R-Texas), Max RoseMax RoseLawmakers fear voter backlash over failure to reach COVID-19 relief deal The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep Navy cancels training flight over NYC on 9/11 after criticism MORE (D-N.Y.), and Don Bacon (R-Neb.). 

The bill builds on legislation previously introduced by Richmond that would provide state and local authorities with the funding and resources to address cyber threats and vulnerabilities.

State and local IT officials have faced increasing challenges during the pandemic, as more activities and business has moved online at the same time that budgets have dried up. 

Doug Robinson, the executive director of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), said in a statement Thursday that the new legislation was “sincerely appreciated.”

“As states are charged with administering critically important federal programs and benefits, this legislation aims to make significant investments in modernizing state and local IT infrastructure,” Robinson said.

NASCIO was among a coalition of groups that sent a letter to congressional leaders in April asking for funds to address cyber and IT infrastructure needs during the pandemic.  

“This surge on our information technology infrastructure requires additional investment in both funding and manpower to keep up with the massive usage,” the groups wrote. “Additionally, malicious cyber actors have used attention on COVID-19 to their advantage, further targeting government infrastructure, the healthcare sector, and individual citizens for internet crimes, such as ransomware, phishing, and computer-enabled financial fraud.”

Lawmakers and state officials had lobbied for more federal resources even before the pandemic, particularly following a year in which ransomware cyberattacks brought the governments of Baltimore and New Orleans, among other government groups, temporarily to their knees.